Drivers face stern test of skill, nerve

Organisers make no compromise on safety

Vikram Mathias and Srinivasa Murthy enjoy a light moment during their trials at Shidlaghatta near Bangalore on Wednesday. DH Photo

This year’s route is not too dissimilar to last year’s, but with the help of the chief steward from Malaysia and an international observer from New Zealand, the organisers have made definitive changes to the outlook of the track, hoping to help drivers clock faster times.

The route has been broken down into three stages -- Mulberry (10.6 km), Silk (8.7 km) and Clay (11.6 km) -- all of which hold their own ‘danger points’ as well as driver-friendly stretches. Drivers will have to keep traversing the three routes through the duration of the event, covering 530 kms in all.

The Mulberry stage is characterised by a series of sharp lefts and even a hair-pin turn, but the uneven terrain and a road-bump, known to claimed a number of casualties, will prove the toughest obstacles of an otherwise fast-paced stage.

A four-foot dip towards the end will be the biggest challenge the second stage offers,  On their reconnaissance laps, the top drivers had no trouble adapting to the sudden changes in direction while keeping their foot firmly on the gas pedal.

“The roads are wider than last year but the bumps are more pronounced. Some of the high-speed corners have been removed but the long stretches will help in faster times,” last year’s winner Vikram Mathias said.

The third stage, the longest of the rally, is unique in that the white gravel surface is as slippery as the drivers can encounter.

A huge onus has been placed on safety, with transponders fitted to cars that will send back information on whereabouts to the GPS system at service points. Fast Intervention Vehicles (FIV) will rush to the spot in case of an incident, while trauma-care ambulances have been made mandatory.

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